Developing an E-Curriculum: Reflections on the Future of Legal Education and on the Importance of Digital Expertise

Oliver R. Goodenough recognizes that law schools can attract more students by adding to the value of traditional legal education. Simply put, as the market for legal services contracts, modern students desire to learn not only a set of policy, argumentation and analytic approaches to law, but also the knowledge and skills that a lawyer should have for an effective and rewarding career. In “Developing an E-Curriculum: Reflections on the Future of Legal Education and on the Importance of Digital Expertise,” 88 CHI.-KENT L. REV. 845 (2013) (forthcoming), Goodenough proposes that legal educators get over the idea that law school is not a trade school and teach graduates the skills necessary to become effective lawyers. “If teaching our graduates how to be effective within the law’s critical work is teaching them a trade, then we should embrace the label, not shun it,” Goodenough explains.

Oliver R. Goodenough, Professor of Law at Vermont Law School and a Faculty Fellow with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, is an expert in the impact of digital technology on law. He has focused on using the Internet to create digital business organizations and to provide improved legal support for innovation and entrepreneurship. In a recent visit to LegalTech New York with a group of students, Goodenough realized that the development of legal technology is not simply supporting legal work, but that this activity “is legal work.”

Law practice technology is now an established and massive industry. New lawyers can both look to e-Lawyering as an expanding job market, and expect modern information technology to be an important aspect of positions in all fields of law. While teaching students to “think like a lawyer” continues to be valuable, law schools in the 21st century should add to the value of the educations they offer if they hope to attract the best and brightest students. Goodenough explains that this can be done through a combination of substantive law courses that discuss relevant technology principles such as e-discovery or document assembly as well as specialty courses that develop specific legal technology skills.

“Legal education is in the midst of significant change, where much of how and what we have taught is under scrutiny. As we reform our curriculums in this moment of change, we should be guided by considerations of value added, values added, economic sustainability. It is no longer enough for our programs to target bar passage, doctrinal coverage, a shared language of argument, and skills and perspectives, important as these may be. Practice in the foreseeable future requires us to add new knowledge and competencies. Law and technology is an area that is ripe for expansion, with the possibility of satisfying all of these criteria. It also provides ample room for scholarly examination. Creating opportunities for learning how technology is shaping legal practice should be a priority for any school looking to provide a useful education for the lawyers of the present, let alone the future.”

Goodenough will expand on this article while presenting during the live, in-person symposium on June 15, 2013, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. For more information.

Throughout the next two weeks, as the live symposium approaches, the CALI Spotlight Blog will preview another symposium presentation each day:

  • June 5, 2013: Marc Lauritsen, “Liberty, Justice, and Legal Automata”
  • June 6, 2013: William E. Hornsby, Jr., “Gaming the System: Approaching 100% Access to Legal Services Through Online Games”
  • June 7, 2013: Conrad Johnson and Brian Donnelly, “If Only We Knew What We Know”
  • June 8, 2013: Richard S. Granat and Stephanie Kimbro, “The Teaching of Law Practice Management and Technology in Law Schools: A New Paradigm”
  • June 10, 2013: Oliver R. Goodenough, “Developing an e-Curriculum: Reflections on the Future of Legal Education and on the Importance of Digital Expertise”
  • June 11, 2013: Tanina Rostain, Roger Skalbeck and Kevin Mulcahy, “Thinking Like a Lawyer, Designing Like an Architect: PReparing Students for the 21st Century Practice”
  • June 12, 2013: Ronald W. Staudt and Andrew P. Medeiros, “Access to Justice and Technology Clinics: A 4% Solution”
  • June 13, 2013: Hybrid Courses of the A2J Clinic Project
    • Tanina Rostain & Roger Skalbeck, Technology, Innovation and Law Practice: An Experiential Seminar at Georgetown University Law Center
    • Judith Wegner, Becoming a Professional at UNC School of Law
    • Sunrise Ayers, A2J Clinic at Concordia University School of law
  • June 14, 2013: Traditional Clinical Courses of the A2J Clinic Project
    • Conrad Johnson, Mary Zulack & Brian Donnelly, Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic at Columbia Law School
    • Joe Rosenberg, Main Street Legal Services, Elder Law Clinic at CUNY School of Law
    • JoNel Newman & Melissa Swain, Medical Legal Clinic at University of Miami School of Law
  • June 15, 2013: Kevin D. Ashley, “Teaching Law and Digital Age Legal Practice with an AI and Law Seminar;” and Vern R. Walker et al, “Law Schools as Knowledge Centers in the Digital Age”

Professor Ashley and Professor Walker are unable to attend the in-person symposium on June 15, 2013, but their valuable contributions will be published with the printed edition of the Chicago-Kent Law Review that accompanies the live symposium.

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